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Located at a distance of about 45km form Bhopal, Bhimbetka is the major historical site in Madhya Pradesh. The area spreads over 10 km in length and about 3 km in width and is covered with lush green forest and rock cliffs. The name Bhimbetka (Bhim ka Baithika) comes from the mythological association of the site with one of the Pandava brothers, Bhim who had rested here when Pandavas were banished from their kingdom. Bhimbetka is known for its spectacular rock shelter caves belonging to the Neolithic age. Hidden in the midst of thick vegetation and dense forest, these caves were accidentally discovered and revealed by an archeologist, Mr V.S Wakankar in 1957. The sand stones of Bhimbetka caves are adorned with ancient prehistoric aboriginal paintings and signs that depict the lifestyle, culture and times of people of the Stone Age, living in these caves. These paintings date back to about 10,000 year and are known to be the first traces of human existence in India. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings. Executed mainly in red and white color with a rare use of green and yellow, the paintings depict hunting, dancing, music, horse and elephant riders, animals fighting, honey collection, decoration of bodies, disguises, masking and household scenes. Other paintings portray animals such as bison, tigers, lions, wild boar, elephants, antelopes, dogs, lizards, crocodiles etc. Popular religious and ritual symbols also occur frequently. Declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on July 2003, the rich caves of Bhimbetka are comparable to the astonishing cave complexes at Lacaux in South West France and Alta Mira in Spain or the rock paintings of Australia.
All the drawings and the paintings have been classified under seven different categories that are Period 1 (Upper Paleolithic), Period 2 (Mesolithic), Period 3 (Chaleolithic), Period 4 and 5 ( Earlier history) and period 6 and 7 ( medieval). The colours used by the Cave dwellers were made by mixing manganese, hematite, soft red stone, wooden coal, animal’s fat and the extracts of leaves.
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Best Time to Visit- July to March Pilgrimage Attractions
PERIOD 1 – Upper Paleolithic These are linear representations in dark and red color. The major drawings were of animals such as bison, tigers and rhinoceroses.
PERIOD 2 – Mesolithic The drawings of this period are quite smaller. In addition to animals, there are human figures, hunting scenes with weapons like barbed spears, pointed sticks, bow and arrows. The scenes of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mother and child, pregnant women, men carrying dead animals, drinking and burials appear in rhythmic movement.
PERIOD 3 – Chaleolithic Resembling the paintings of Chaleolithic pottery, these drawings of period three reveal the close connections of the cave dwellers with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains.
PERIOD 4 and 5 – Earlier History Painted mainly in red, white and yellow, the figures of this group have a schematic and a decorative style. The religious symbols (figures of Yakshas, tree gods, magical sky chariots), tunic like dresses, scripts of various periods can be depicted from these paintings
PERIOD 6 and 7 – Medieval The paintings show degeneration and crudeness in their artistic style however, they are geometric linear and well schematic.
How to Get There
By Air: The nearest airport is Bhopal (45km) which is connected with Delhi, Jabalpur, Indore, Gwalior and Mumbai.
By Rail: The closest railhead is Bhopal, located on the Delhi-Chennai and Delhi Mumbai mainline.
By Road: Regular bus services connect Bhimbetka with Bhopal.